You hear the term “small business” tossed around these days, mostly by politicians, usually in the context of “the economy of America relies on the success of small businesses.”
What does the term mean to you? To me, it brings to mind the locally owned and operated mom and pop stores that were so common in my youth. Our main retail area was lined with them and everybody’s neighborhood had a small grocery within walking distance, many of them sharing a building with the owners’ home.
Even mega-retailer Wal-Mart started as a small business when Sam Walton’s Five & Dime first opened its doors in a small Arkansas town in 1950.
But my simple definition of a small business is much different than the government’s. I think. Try negotiating the web page of the Small Business Administration yourself and you’ll see what I mean. I’m sure the government’s definition is tucked among the bureaucratic gobbledy-gook somewhere, but I don’t have the patience to sort it all out. My quick review of the site seems to indicate that a business with as many as 1,500 employees can be considered “small.” (The actual figure may be much larger; the site is quite large.)
I doubt whether our ancestors were familiar with the term “entrepreneur,” but that’s what small business owners mostly were. They often poured whatever family resources they could muster into the enterprise. And I’m certain that few of them got help from a Small Business Administration. They were more likely fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants type of people.
I’m only familiar with one such person in my family, great uncle-in-law John Madsen, who ran a string of Southwest Iowa pool halls and general stores from the time he arrived from Denmark in 1913 until his death in 1952. I know little about his businesses other than he appears to have been successful enough to have raised a family in relative comfort.
If you have any small business people in your family history, I hope you appreciate the important roles played by them and their families in their communities and beyond.
Writing prompt of the day: Write about your favorite store as a child.
Flickr photo courtesy of liberalmind1012.